Indian classical dances are renowned all over the world for its uniqueness and elegance. Some of these world famous dances originate in the south Indian state of Kerala. Kerala is home to some of the most beautiful and elegant dances. Gods own country classical dances are varied, unique and a perfect blend of dance, music and drama. Blended with a touch of mythology, these classical dances are an important part of the cultural and social life of Keralites. They originated in different regions of the state thousands of years ago and tell a very interesting story of the life of the people. Some of the popular dance forms are –

Kathakali – this dance form originated about 500 years ago and is a unique combination of dance, music, drama and ritual. It is considered to be the oldest form of theater in the world and is a delight to witness. The word Kathakali means a street play, i.e. ‘Katha’ means story and ‘Kali’ means play. The costume and makeup of the dancer is equally attractive and adds a unique charm to this dance form. It is the most popular and world renowned dance form of this state.

Theyyam – also known as Kaliyattam or Thirayattam, this is another outstanding art form of Kerala. More than a dance form it is a ritual that is dedicated to goddess Kali and is performed by artists to appease her. The word Theyyam is a corrupt form of the Malayalam word ‘Daivam’ which means god. This dance form derives its name from the word ‘thira’ or village as it was performed in the village temple known as Kaavu.

Thullal – Thullal originated in the 18th century and is an entertaining combination of dance and recitation. It is a solo performance in which the dancer performs on a tale that is usually taken from the puranas recited in the form of a verse. The word ‘Thullal’ means ‘Caper’ which means to jump or leap playfully. This is exactly what the performer does during the performance.


Koodiyattam – this art from is considered as the earliest art form of Kerala that combines drama. The word Koodiyattam means ‘acting together’ and it has been in existence since the 9th century AD and became a popular temple art from 15th century onwards. It is more of a temple art and is also the only surviving form of traditional Sanskrit drama.


Duffmuttu or Aravanmuttu – this dance form is associated with the Muslim community of Kerala and has a deep connection with the Arabs. It is accompanied by Arab music and involves the use of an instrument called duff or tap from which it derives its name.

Oppana dance – this dance is also associated with the Muslim community and is usually performed during weddings. It is performed by the young female relatives of the bride on the day before the wedding. It is popular mainly along the Malabar region.

The other forms of dances are Kaikottikali performed by Hindu women during festivals like Onam, Margamkali performed by male Syrian Christians of Kerala, Thitambu Nritham performed by the Namboodaris etc.

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